A complex story that refuses to die down

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Indy Politics

Does the Budd inquiry matter now that David Blunkett has resigned? Yes. Sir Alan Budd's findings could still determine whether the former home secretary can return to the Cabinet after the next general election. His verdict could also make uncomfortable reading for Tony Blair,whose informal governing style was criticised by Lord Butler of Brockwell in his report on the pre-war intelligence on Iraq in July.

Does the Budd inquiry matter now that David Blunkett has resigned?

Yes. Sir Alan Budd's findings could still determine whether the former home secretary can return to the Cabinet after the next general election. His verdict could also make uncomfortable reading for Tony Blair,whose informal governing style was criticised by Lord Butler of Brockwell in his report on the pre-war intelligence on Iraq in July.

What is may the inquiry likely to find?

Downing Street admits that there was a "gap" between Mr Blunkett's original version of events and that unearthed by Sir Alan. Mr Blunkett said that on 12 March 2003 he read the application form for indefinite leave to remain in Britain by Leoncia Casalme, the nanny of his lover, Kimberly Quinn, with a private secretary. But Sir Alan found that Mr Blunkett handed a letter telling Ms Casalme her case could take up to a year to his private office on 29 April, which faxed it to the office of Bill Jeffrey, director general of the Immigration and Nationality Department (IND) in Croydon. On 9 May, Mr Blunkett's office e-mailed the IND to ask about progress. The following day, an IND official told Mr Blunkett's office that the case had been completed with "no special favours" but "just a bit quicker."

Who else has reason to fear?

John Gieve, the Home Office permanent secretary who set up the inquiry, and other Home Office officials are anxiously awaiting Sir Alan's findings. As his investigation progressed, growing evidence of a possible cover-up emerged. The crucial fax sent from Mr Blunkett's office to the IND has not survived and was not placed in the file on the nanny's application. It is not known what instructions were written on the fax, and no Home Office official can remember what was said. If Sir Alan finds there was an attempt to conceal the truth, that would be a very serious matter for any civil servants or political advisers involved.

How did the truth emerge?

We don't know yet beyond speculation that senior IND officials unwilling to support a cover story clashed with their Home Office bosses. There have also been suggestions that Sir Alan only established the truth after The Sunday Times reported nine days ago that Mr Blunkett had raised the visa delay directly with his officials.

And the other allegations against Mr Blunkett?

Sir Philip Mawer, Parliament's standards watchdog, has considered complaints that Mr Blunkett gave Mrs Quinn rail travel warrants for MPs' spouses worth £180. Parliament's Standards and Privileges Committee will rule today on whether Mr Blunkett's decision to pay back the money is the end of the matter.

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